Pupil with hepatitis A no threat, official says Chance that others will contract disease 'very, very, very slight'

November 05, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

A middle school pupil who has hepatitis A doesn't pose a significant threat to other pupils and teachers, Carroll County's health officer said yesterday.

The infected pupil has two siblings who also have shown symptoms of the virus, but they have not been officially diagnosed with the illness, said Larry L. Leitch, Carroll's health officer.

"This is not really any kind of a public health problem," said Leitch. "Even if the kids are in school in classes now, there's only a very, very, very slight chance that anyone is going to contract hepatitis A."

Of the three siblings, one attends Mechanicsville Elementary School, and the other two -- including the pupil diagnosed with the disease -- attend a county middle school.

Leitch would not identify the middle school, noting confidentiality concerns.

County health officials prepared a "Dear Parent" letter yesterday explaining hepatitis A and the small chance for transmission at a school.

Margaret Hoffmaster, coordinator of health services for county schools, said school administrators will decide today whether to distribute the letter.

Hoffmaster said she did not receive the letter until late yesterday afternoon.

Hepatitis A is a contagious virus that attacks the liver. It is carried in human feces and often is borne by food, according to state health officials. The virus has a mortality rate of less than 0.1 percent.

Leitch said county health officials chose not to notify the two schools' parents of the pupil's illness, heeding the recommendations of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

He said the situation differed greatly from the hepatitis A outbreak in September that was traced to an employee at the Wendy's restaurant in Eldersburg. Health officials gave shots of immune globulin -- an antibody that helps prevent hepatitis A -- to more than 1,000 people who had eaten at Wendy's.

"These kids are in school and are not preparing food," Leitch said.

Pub Date: 11/05/98

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